Productive humanities and social sciences networks


The 5 National Centres of Competence in Research (NCCRs) in the humanities and social sciences have achieved their goals: they have facilitated productive research and created professorships, chairs, institutes and partnerships. Launched by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), the 5 NCCRs will formally end in 2017 after a 12-year run, but their impact will be long-lasting.

National Centres of Competence in Research (NCCRs) support innovative research in Switzerland, be it for individual research groups and higher education institutions, or for the humanities and social sciences. Five NCCRs in the humanities and social sciences were conducted between 2005 and 2017: Affective Sciences (University of Geneva), Democracy (University of Zurich), Mediality (University of Zurich), Iconic Criticism (University of Basel) and Trade Regulation (University of Bern) (please follow the link for additional information). In total, the Swiss National Science Foundation invested approximately 110 million francs in this series of NCCRs. This corresponds to nearly half of their total budget of 260 million francs. The lion's share of the remaining funds was made available by the higher education institutions where the NCCRs researchers are based.

The five NCCRs for the humanities and social sciences have an impressive track record: they have created around 20 new professorships, 200 young researchers have so far completed their dissertation in the NCCRs and 420 doctoral students have collaborated in the research work overall. For instance, 1406 publications - including 41 books - and 1794 conference presentations have been produced under the auspices of the NCCR Affective Sciences. For the NCCR Iconic Criticism, the figures are: 2006 publications - including 327 books - and 1292 conference contributions.

In addition, these NCCRs undertook the essential work of interpreting and representing reality through which the humanities and social sciences can help us to better understand the world we live in. By thinking in terms of possible scenarios, the humanities and social sciences could open up new avenues to be explored in the future.

Long-term impact thanks to new research centres

The conclusion of the NCCRs in the humanities and social sciences also marks the beginning of their long-term impact. They have led to the founding of three research centres as well as the extension of an existing centre. The NCCR Affective Sciences established the Swiss Center for Affective Sciences at the University of Geneva. It is based at the Campus Biotech, an excellence cluster of EPF Lausanne, the University of Geneva and the Wyss Foundation. In addition, the NCCR set up the Brain and Behavior Laboratory, a research facility for neuroscience and affective sciences, as well as an internationally renowned doctoral programme.

The NCCR Democracy played a key role in setting up the Center for Democracy Aarau, which was founded by the University of Zurich together with the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland, the canton of Aargau and the city of Aarau. This is where the democracy barometer is housed. The NCCR also established a doctoral programme. The World Trade Institute based at the University of Bern was extended thanks to the NCCR Trade Regulation. Within the university, the NCCR has institutionalised its collaboration with the Centre for Development and Environment.

Cutting-edge research for science, the economy and society

The NCCRs Iconic Criticism and Mediality have each created a new competence centre at their respective universities. The NCCR Iconic Criticism will continue as part of the renowned Graduate School which it established together with ETH Zurich. The Graduate School is responsible for educating doctoral students, but also serves as a platform for research projects and as a public forum. The research conducted by the NCCR Mediality will be continued at Zurich University's Centre for Historical Mediology, an internationally influential research platform that is open to all disciplines. Its doctoral programme is also to be continued.

NCCRs promote cutting-edge research in Switzerland, which is vital for Swiss science, society and business. Eight new NCCRs took up their research work in 2010 and in 2014. Now that the five humanities & social sciences NCCRs have been concluded, 16 NCCRs are still actively doing research.

NCCRs offer long-term perspectives

On behalf of the Swiss Confederation, the Swiss National Science Foundation created a wide-reaching funding scheme known as the "National Centres of Competence in Research" (NCCRs) in 2001. They are the SNSF's main scheme for promoting long-term collaborative research at the highest level. Their reputation has attracted a host of talented scientists from all over the world. NCCRs are always based at one or more Swiss universities, but they conduct their research always in networks. Besides supporting researchers in building networks, NCCRs help to promote young scientists, transfer knowledge and pursue structural goals. The long-term perspectives they offer are highly appreciated by researchers.

National Centres of Competence in Research (NCCRs)


Schweizerischer Nationalfonds
Head of NCCRs
Marc Zbinden
Tel. +41 (0)31 308 23 34

Overview of NCCRs in the humanities and social sciences (PDF)